Panini Stickers, The Collapse of the Berlin Wall, The Owls returning to top flight football and off Course Italia 90! It just seems like yesterday, sitting on the couch swotting through my Panini Sticker Book as a 9 year old whose life revolved around football.
Little did I know that one Team stood out and in particular one Player…. You guessed it! Roberto Baggio. The young Italian Prodigy who many tipped, would sit in the legends of Football could not have been more right! Seeing flashes of that magical goal against the Czech Republic (Formally known as Czechoslovakia) saw the start of a fantastic football career and inheriting the Number 10 Shirt at Juventus that was worn by the great Michelle Platini.
Nearly 25 years have passed by, but it still seems so recent. Whenever, there is a World Cup, I always think back to 1990. It was a truly unforgettable experience and whilst it produced an incalculably dull final, we saw an abundance of goals and a flurry of shocking incidents which lead to red cards! I’m aware that I was a young impressionable kid!
Arriving home for school for the opening game, no-one could have predicted what was to unfold. After famously, holding the Title “Hand of God”, much expectations were residing on the shoulders of Diego Maradona. After scoring one the greatest goals in World Cup history, you could feel the orr and excitement. However, no-one expected was to come in the first game with Cameroon. With one of the softest headers, a stale but determined Cameroon team earned a 1-0 victory and reduced to 9 Men!
In some way Cameroon became the story of the tournament. Recollections of Roger Miller’s touchline celebration for his second goal against Romania became a monumental moment in World Cup history. Many of us are still doing the dance after nearly a quarter of a century!
England started their World Cup campaign with Ireland. A dull encounter which saw a 1-1 draw. 3 draws earned the Irish a place in the last 16 with a crack at the Romanians. After a 0-0 draw saw Patty Bonner and David’O’Leary become the Penalty Shoot out heros! The Scots faded very quickly after a shock 1-0 defeat to the hands of Costa Rica, who funnily enough in 2014 are in the same group as England! This was a complete contrast to how Ireland and England’s campaign has started!
After a relatively lack lustre 1st round, the second round saw many thrills and frills! David Platt's stunning volley earned England a 119th-minute win over Belgium. I still have visions of the whimsical volley which was the talking point for several weeks! I recall going out into the School Playground to demonstrate the volley to my P.E Teacher. Unfortunately, much to my own demise I couldn’t reproduce that fantastic moment!
We all remember the Cameroon game and the belief that this could be England’s year during the latter stages of the tournament. 2 Penalties in the final which saw the majestically goal scoring maestro, Gary Linekar coming ever closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s record. The slightly and mature crowd felt that the great days of 66 were looming – Could this be England’s year?
The first semi finals saw the holders face the Hosts, of which many tipped that it would be Italy’s year. Sir Maradona carried an entire team and to the World Cup finals and despite going 1-0 down, manages to secure their place in the Final through a Penalty shoot out.
A day later in Turin the arch rivalry between England and West Germany began to unfold. I stayed up and still remember those raw images of that cruel deflection that came off Paul Parker which saw the football glance over Shilton’s head. 10 minutes from time, the Goal Scoring legend Gary Linekar somehow carved the ball into the left corner levelling the game which took the match into extra time.
I could feel the tension! Not a soul on the street and the neighbours were sitting in anxiety! It was unbearable! However, later into extra time an emotional moment as Paul Gascoigne’s over-zealous tackle on Thomas Berthold saw him handed a Yellow Card, in which he would miss the final! The iconic tears began to fall and Gary Linekar began to console his team mate.
Penalties followed and after Stuart Pearce’s effort was saved, Chrissy Waddle was up next and had to score! The Geordie Lad had a fantastic tournament and after coming so close you felt that was going to score! The football blazed over and England were shatteringly out! Seeing one of my childhood heroes distraught and a player who I’d grew up with that became a legend in my home town was hard to bare! The entire wept inconsolably at which point I wasn’t in any mood to watch the Final!
In any-case it was the Holders to face the Germans which saw the most dullest final in history. A dubious red card and Penalty that saw the Germans win their 3rd World Cup Title.
In a tournament of tears, the event belonged to Paul Gascoigne! A debtable choice but it did see the birth of a young fearless talent that was a breath of fresh air! It was sad to see a career so short lived but the moments that he produced in Italia 90, still live on!
Italia 90 for me had everything! We saw one of the Greatest Songs in World Cup history, Nessun Dorma which was sung by of one the Opera Greats, Pavarotti! John Barnes added a retero theme to kick off the Rap culture in the 90s with the World in Motion and finally I had the chance to witness one of the games most gifted Footballer – Deigo Maradona. Still notoriously known for his famous Maradona turn that he used effortlessly on 1986, it gives me great pleasure in teaching this to our Young Strikers and Academy to appreciate the beauty he bought to the game.
The late and Great Bobby Robson said…”With Maradona, even Arsenal would have won the World Cup!”